Members of Nintendo's huge, vocal fan base have been salivating in anticipation of the Wii for some time. But the curious and appreciative onlookers that I've noticed during my recent testing of a retail unit suggest that the Wii's appeal may well extend beyond the Nintendo faithful. The Wii seems poised to make console gaming more social, immersive, and--most importantly--fun than it has ever been.
Nintendo has announced that more than 1 million units of the US$250 Wii (available in Australia from December 7 for $399) will be available when the model makes its official U.S. debut on Sunday. So your odds of getting your hands on a Wii in the near future are better than your odds of snagging a PS3. Cryogenically freezing yourself to avoid the wait, as one of the characters in South Park did recently, won't be necessary.
Out of the Box
The Wii is the most compact of the next-generation consoles. It weighs just 2.7 pounds and measures 8.5 inches long by 6 inches wide by less than 2 inches thick. It has clean, sharp lines and an Apple-like glossy white finish, though we'll undoubtedly see units in black and possibly other colors at some point.
Like the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, The Wii can be oriented horizontally or vertically, thanks to its angled plastic stand. Once you've positioned it, your next step is to plug in the power supply (which is about the size a laptop brick), and connect the bundled composite audio/video cables to your television. To output content at the Wii's maximum 480p resolution in 16:9 wide-screen format, you'll have to purchase the optional component cable separately.
Next you must set up the included controllers: a Wii Remote and a Nunchuk--a joystick-style controller that connects to the remote for additional game control. I first hooked up the supplied sensor bar to the console and placed it just under the display of my TV. The sensor bar allows the console to communicate wirelessly (via Bluetooth) with up to four Wii Remotes at a time. The Wii Remote works for games within a radius of about 30 feet and functions as a cursor-type pointing device within about 15 feet. In my testing, the on-screen pointer jittered slightly when I tried to use it from farther away.
The final setup steps are to place two AA batteries into the Wii Remote, rearrange your furniture as necessary to clear plenty of space in front of the TV (to avoid any "Wiinjury"), and fire up the console.